No matter how desperate you may be to have a child, finding a sperm donor on the internet rather than via a regulated clinic can be hazardous in the extreme. The point was powerfully made by a case concerning a donor who suffered from a debilitating genetic condition yet claimed to have fathered 15 children.
After the man advertised his services on a social media page, he was contacted by a vulnerable woman who was then in a lesbian relationship. They signed a closely spaced agreement, couched in highly legalistic language, that would have been difficult to read even for a qualified lawyer.
The donor suffered from a genetic condition that can cause developmental problems, including learning difficulties and cognitive impairment. The fact that he had the condition was disclosed in the agreement but there was no explanation of what it meant or its potential implications. The woman had difficulty reading and said that she did not spot the reference in any event.
After his sperm donation bore fruit, the donor had positive contact with his offspring for some time at the mother’s invitation. He showed commitment to the child and had affection for her. With a view to having a role in the child’s future, he sought orders granting him formal parental responsibility and a right to have contact with her. The mother strongly opposed his application.
Ruling on the case, a family judge acknowledged that children generally benefit from contact with both parents. The donor, who suffered from learning difficulties and was on the autistic spectrum, had said that he did not appreciate the seriousness of his genetic condition. However, the judge observed that he was aware that he was precluded from donating sperm through a regulated clinic.
Rejecting the donor’s application, the judge noted that the agreement stated in terms that he would have no contact or other rights in respect of any child born. He had considerable reservations as to the donor’s motives in pursuing the case and was concerned as to what he might do were he to be granted a parental role.
The judge also took into account the donor’s fundamental irresponsibility in acting as a sperm donor whilst knowing that he had an inheritable condition without at the very least making the implications of that entirely clear to the mother. He took no steps to explain his condition to the mother or to ensure that she understood. He had shown no apparent concern for the long-term impact on both her and, potentially, the child.
Given the mother’s vulnerability and fragility, she would find sharing her child with the donor immensely difficult and upsetting. Granting the orders sought was likely to have an extremely detrimental effect on the child’s welfare. The judge also refused to make parental responsibility or contact orders in respect of two other children fathered by the donor.